Posts

Showing posts from August, 2017

Writing with Substance

Image
In the aftermath of the XPRIZE writing contest I have been wondering about the substance of fiction writing, about how stories resonate through a life, about their importance.


The four part format that I came up with to evaluate writing seems to be useful for writing as well: subject, structure, style, substance. It's that last one that has a few questions bouncing around inside my head.

When you read great writers like J. K. Rowling, George R. R. Martin, or C. S. Lewis you encounter ideas, concepts, and situations that can lead you to new questions and realizations. Their writing has a resonance to it that can reverberate throughout your life, or, to put it another way, it has substance. Writing without that substance seems kind of boring to me. I've read some of those books, but usually only if they were light, I needed a break from the heavy stuff, and they involved something I like (for instance, the Percy Jackson books). The question becomes, how do I write with that kind…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 5 of 5

Image
I think I'm going to fail. I think I am going to fail, but I am going to trudge on. There is a great scene about trudging in the movie "A Knight's Tale," which is an excellent movie. Chaucer says, "To trudge: the slow, weary, depressing yet determined walk of a man who has nothing left in life except the impulse to simply soldier on." Out of the despair, out of the darkness, from desolation and ruin, I shall trudge on; forever yearning to stop, to stop from pain, and fear, and exhaustion, and a feeling of utter meaninglessness in the face of a lost cause, yet I shall trudge on. Trudge we shall unto the heights, through the depths, across the great expanse of life, the universe, and everything in it, we shall trudge!



In the last post I made an interesting revelation about the lack of substance and some fanciful manipulations of human nature being the reason for my hang-up in writing this story. Nevertheless I am going to give it a go. First, let's look at…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 4 of ?

Image
Here we go. We are going to make San Francisco into an artificial war zone using droid clones in the year 2037. I have a deadline coming up so I have to get this done, but I feel like working on other things. It seems I am not in bad company because both Douglas Adams and George Martin have had the same problem. Forward, always forward (except for when you need to move backward, of course).


I would like to just dive right in without much of a structure and begin writing. Some people can do that, but whenever I think about it I just get bogged down. So, let's work with some structure. I worked on a little bit of the plot structure in the last post, but I'm not sure I'm satisfied with it. There are a ton of options I have, and a few that interest me. Let's play with some of them and see what happens.
First, what things could I use to structure this? I could use some pieces and begin developing the story with intention, stakes, obstacle, and tactics from Sorkin. I could d…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 3 of ?

Image
Do I want this story to be based more around mystery or action? Set in an artificial war zone or the peaceful city of San Francisco (with droid/clones)? Decisions, decisions.


I need to flesh those two ideas out into a little more detail to see which one is more appealing to me. There are a few different ways that I could do this. I think the two main divisions that I could follow would be either starting with a character and a situation and just moving forward with the story, or I could build a plot outline first. Let's try some of both. First I'm going to work on a basic plot idea for each idea, then I'm going to think more about the character and see if that changes anything.
First, there was mystery. I think this will be the harder of the two to write, but it has great potential. I want this to end with some kind of shocking reveal about droid clones, but I'm not exactly clear on how to do that. If I want it to end in a kind of bad way then I want it to start with a…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 2 of ?

Image
I have some good ideas for this story, but deciding on which one to take further is a bit of a challenge. That is what I am going to explore today.


Let's start with a basic inventory. Here are the general ideas: interrogation, injured, seeking loved one, war zone, artificial war zone, complete droid/clone city. All of these could be great ideas, and have many great stories within each category, but we have some limits we have to work around. I think that the biggest limitation is that it has to be a positive view of the future and a positive view of technology in the future; it's easier to think of ideas about non-positive futures, and technology leading to a dystopia rather than a utopia. I don't really like utopias, they seem fake. Nevertheless this must have a positive slant to it, and I can do that.
Can an interrogation story be optimistic? I don't think this one is going to work. It would probably seem a little forced. There are a lot of interesting options here, …

Violence and Magic

Image
Almost all stories are about violence and magic. Even romances are usually about a wild/violent/powerful male that is tamed, broken, and yoked by a woman (the tamed, broken, and yoked part is why men don't read them). There is one caveat I can think of, humor; humor is often not about violence or magic, but sometimes it is as well, and after the humor people get back to more violent and magical pursuits.


Both of these basic truths are something that I resisted for a long time. I saw them as flaws of human nature that should and could be remedied, but I was wrong. These are so fundamental to humans that it is almost impossible to even limit or diminish them. I don't even have a desire to anymore anyway because one is the foundation of knowledge and the other is the foundation of society. (Technically there is a mutual foundation to knowledge and magic, but that doesn't sound as good; just as there are several stones needed for the foundation of society. For a better underst…

The XPRIZE Writing Contest - Part 1 of ?

Image
I have been thinking about entering this contest for a couple of weeks. The idea is that a flight in 2017 hits some turbulence and finds itself landing in San Francisco in the year 2037. The contest has a unique feel to it, and I want to be a part of it.


There are three things that the contest will be judged on:
1. Unique vision of the future 2. Aligned with XPRIZE belief that exponential technology can positively impact the future 3. Adherence to story prompt
If you are a fan of science fiction and fantasy you know that the second item could offer a little bit of a challenge because most science fiction and fantasy does not have a positive view of the future. "Enders Game," "Battlestar Galactica," "Westworld," anything from Michale Crighton, it's all based on the idea that things aren't going well, and that's usually based on technology. Even "The Martian," which is relatively positive concerning technology, is all about problems. Y…

The Evaluation of Writing and The Deconstruction of Creation

Image
Creation and deconstruction are two sides of the same coin. Stephen King recommends that you put as much time into reading as you do into writing. I put way more time into the reading portion, but I don't do it in a particularly critical or systematized way. I want to change that.


When I first started public speaking my ability to give a speech evaluating someone else's speech lagged behind. I went to another member of my Toastmasters group that is a professional speaker and teaches college courses on public speaking. He gave me a format to use that was both flexible and gave structure to my evaluations. That is what I am looking for in evaluating writing.

The first thing that we all evaluate is whether or not we like a work; whether or not we think it is good. We don't always, and probably usually, know why we like or don't like something, but it is important to recognize the emotions we are experiencing because of a work. Trying to make that process conscious will al…

Generating Ideas for Writing - A Play in One Table

Image
Many of the most intense moments in life have zero action in them. Many of the most intense moments in life are conversations, uncomfortable conversations. I have an idea about a play that concerns itself with only one conversation.


This picture came to me when I was in a half conscious state in between pain and sleep of two men at a table, sitting in a tense silence. I'm not sure what the conversation was about, but I could tell it was important; and uncomfortable.

Action is very popular in movies and television, but I have seen a number of plays where conversations were the real action, the dialogue was the real suspense, and I think this scene could fit in well. It got me thinking, "What if I did a play where the whole thing is just a single conversation at a table?", "Could I make that an intense emotional experience for the audience?" I don't know if I can, but it seems like it could be one of the most intense kinds of plays.

When you're at a resta…